Acidulants

Encapsulated acidulants were first offered commercially in the early 1970s. Initially dry, granular acids including fu-maric, malic, citric, tartaric, and adipic were encapsulated to improve stability of acid-sensitive ingredients in dry mixes. By encapsulating acids with coatings such as hydrogenated vegetable oils, or malto dextrin, it was possible to reduce contact between acids and starches in puddings and pie fillings, thereby reducing potential prehydrolysis and significantly extending shelf life. An attendant benefit with encapsulated citric acid was that it reduced hygrosco-picity. Core acids were released with addition of water or milk to a mix or, in the case of products employing hydrogenated vegetable oil coatings, on heating (2,5,22).

Encapsulated acids have been used to prevent undesirable discoloration of acid-sensitive food colors and dyes, degradation of aspartame, control of dusting, as means of regulating the gelling effect of acidulants on acid-sensitive pectins in fruit-based products, and alteration of bulk density. The most recent, and by now the largest application, for encapsulated acidulants is in the meat industry where the use of encapsulated citric acid, lactic acid, and glucono-de/ta-lactone, a gluconic acid precursor, provide a means of direct acidification of processed meat. In the manufacture of fermented sausage the industry has long relied on naturally occurring microorganisms or on Lactobacillus starter cultures whose activity on carbohydrates produces lactic acid, thereby lowering the pH to a level adequate to ensure protection against pathogenic microorganisms. The fermentation process can take as long as four to five days, and although it has been used for hundreds of years, it is not without problems, primarily the length of fermentation time and the variability from batch to batch. The potential for direct acidification was obvious, but not easily accomplished. Contact of ground meat with acid causes rapid separation of fat from protein, discoloration, and a change in texture from a soft uniform emulsion to hard, brittle, crumbly particles that are no longer usable. Use of encapsulated acidulants having hydrogenated vegetable oil coatings with appropriate melting points offer a mechanism for releasing acidulants into meat slowly and uniformly throughout the mass as temperature is elevated during cooking. The fermentation step is eliminated. The concept has been expanded to meat systems where acidification is possible to replace high-temperature retorting with short-term pasteurization (23-26). The desirability of using lactic acid as the acidulant by some technologists has extended the creativity of the encapsulators to include liquid lactic acid, which is first absorbed on solid calcium lactate particles prior to tight encapsulation in hydrogenated vegetable oil.

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